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The Picture House, Forest Hall

When hailstones showered on the roof, the film sound track was lost.


The earliest cinema in Forest Hall was the Picture House, situated on Forest Hall Road beside Hart’s D.I.Y. shop. It was a corrugated iron building and was commonly known as “The Gaff” or “Tin Hut” or “Bug Hutch”. One of the disadvantages of the iron cinema was that, when hailstones showered on the roof, the film sound track was lost. In those primitive cinema going days this was accepted as part of the fun.

In the heyday of this cinema of course films were silent. Tom Mix, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin & Harold Lloyd were favourite stars. One cinema goer remembers affectionately.

“In the old Gaff you parked your prams, not cars. There was a big room for them. I went with my mother, with my brother and sister in the pram. Noise was nothing then as they were silent pictures.”

This noise was heightened at the end of each evening performance when the sound of feet crunching on the monkey nut shells, bought from Barker’s the fruit shop next door, was deafening.

It seems characteristic then that this cinema went out with a loud bang. It collapsed in February 1941 due to the great snow storms of that year. Mrs Doris Riley, who was present for the last evening performance in the cinema, remembers hearing cracking noises as the roof rafters were collapsing. Fortunately the final collapse took place in the early hours when the cinema was deserted. At the time, a poster on the billboard outside was for a film ‘It all came true’ starring Ann Sheridan and Humphrey Bogart. Some joker changed it to “It all came through.”

The cinema name plate was rescued from the debris by a schoolboy of the time and he has now sent it to Ivy Road Primary School, where it has been mounted and has a place of honour in the school library. The name plate bears the name Stanhope Cinema Co. Ltd. This company was owned by Joseph Broughton and William Marshall. They had six cinemas in their circuit, the Stanhope Grand (1913), the Raby Grand (1917], the Picture House, Forest Hall, the Queens, Wallsend, the Crown, Tyne Dock and the Bromarsh, Monkwearmouth. We do not know the date of opening of the Picture House, but it must have been about twenty years before the Ritz Cinema began in 1936.

Known Picture House staff:

Managers: Mr. Marshall, Mr. Allen, Mr. Longhorn

Pay box: Janet Gardiner, Edna May Armstrong, Olive Jones, Olive Taylor

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